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poverty

Photographer and journalist Katie Hayes Luke reported throughout the year on an innovative school for homeless children in Oklahoma City, Okla. We're not using the first names of students and family members to protect their privacy.

On the last day of school, the fifth grade students at Positive Tomorrows perform last-minute rehearsals for the inaugural "Classy Awards."

The Oregon House unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that aims to prevent so-called “lunch shaming” in Oregon Schools.

Rachel Pearson / Twitter

Dr. Rachel Pearson got her start working with poor people in Texas, many of them people of color. 

Which got her thinking about how doctors learn by making mistakes with those communities.

"We need to keep in mind what we owe to the people who have contributed the most to medical training and medical knowledge," she said. 


Amazon is attempting to lure low-income shoppers from Walmart by offering a discount on its pay-by-month Prime membership for people who receive government assistance.

The giant online retailer said in a statement Tuesday that people who have a valid electronic benefits transfer card — used for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, or food stamps — will pay $5.99 per month for a year. Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial for qualifying customers.

When President Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, unveiled the administration's budget blueprint earlier this week, which calls for significant cuts to food stamps, he noted that the aim of the budget was to get people working.

"If you're on food stamps and you're able-bodied, we need you to go to work. If you're on disability insurance and you're not supposed to be — if you're not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work," Mulvaney said Tuesday.

Ronnie Schmidt once volunteered for Food Lifeline. Then he saw a posting for a job driving a truck for the organization. 'You see a lot of seniors that need this help. So it's nice doing it.'
KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

Most of the poor people in our region live in the suburbs. That can create problems for organizations like Food Lifeline, a nonprofit food distribution center. One solution for getting perishable food to needy people spread over a large area? A truck.

The Birchcrest, a motel in South King County. The motel serves as a low-rent solution for people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

Emily Fox speaks with Brookings researcher Elizabeth Kneebone, co-author with Alan Berube of "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America."

Kneebone and Berube chose five locations to study for their book. South King County was one of them, Kneebone told Fox, because it demonstrates so many national trends. 

Mary Jean Ryan, executive director of the Road Map Project
KUOW photo/Gil Aegerter

If you're a kid of color living in poverty in our region, getting to college can be tough. The Road Map Project has been trying to help for seven years. Its goal was, by 2020, to double the rate at which students in South Seattle and South King County finish college.

But with growth changing the region so quickly, people at the project reassessed that time frame. The new goal: Raise the college graduation rate to 70 percent by the year 2030.

Groups that help low-income families get food assistance are alarmed by a recent drop in the number of immigrants seeking help. Some families are even canceling their food stamps and other government benefits, for fear that receiving them will affect their immigration status or lead to deportation. Many of the concerns appear to be unfounded but have been fueled by the Trump administration's tough stance on immigration.

A plane flies over a field in South Sudan. Out of the sky drops a cascade of pallets, sacks or boxes filled with emergency food supplies that, once they reach the ground, can make the difference between sustenance and starvation.

 David Rolf, president of SEIU 775, which represents home care and nursing home workers in Washington state and Montana.
KUOW Photos / David Hyde

What if you got paid $1,000 month ... for doing nothing? That’s a serious proposal that one prominent Washington state labor leader wants President Donald Trump to consider.


In the quest to help the poor, it's difficult to know whose needs are the greatest. Without clear data, it's tough to know who to help first.

The traditional way to look for the poorest of the poor is with household surveys. That's the primary source of data for policy decisions, but it has drawbacks.

With Thanksgiving on the mind of most people this week, a new report shows the number of Oregonians who aren't sure where their next meal is coming from continues to rise.

Poverty was one of the forgotten issues on the campaign trail this election season. Now, many who work with the nation's poor worry that it will be even more forgotten under a Trump administration and the new Republican Congress.

"I would like to know more about microloans, and if they are in fact helping women start businesses in the developing world."

That's the question our readers wanted us to look into.

Ben Silesky, 26, and Sydney Allen, 21, go door to door to raise awareness and support for ballot Initiative 732, which would put a tax on carbon emissions in Washington.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

If you could make energy companies pay $25 for every ton of CO2 they emitted, would you?

What if that tax increased your electric bill and the cost of gasoline by 25 cents per gallon – but the revenue from that tax reduced sales taxes and gave money back to low-income families in the form of a rebate?

Monday marked 20 years since the welfare system was overhauled by the federal government. The reforms have played out differently in every state, including Washington.

The 1996 reforms ended some welfare benefits, and in turn encouraged people to find work by offering job-training and money for things like child care.

When the school year ends, some kids go to camp, summer school or daycare. But a lot of these options are expensive for families who have to come up with creative, cheaper alternatives, whether that means sending kids off to the city's rec center, or to stay with grandparents.

NPR's Lynn Neary spoke about the economic hardships of summer with KJ Dell'Antonia, who's written about the topic for The New York Times.

For 12 years, Chester, Pa., had no supermarket. In an effort to end this so-called food desert, a local food bank plunked down a nonprofit grocery store in the impoverished Delaware County city in October 2013.

Area food bank Philabundance opened the new store, called Fare & Square, in the same footprint as a former supermarket at the corner of Trainer and 9th streets.

Volunteers from L’Oreal Clarisonic net an apple tree at the Amy Yee Tennis Center Orchard to keep out pests.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

There’s an old joke: What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?

Finding half a worm.

For years, Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in the small city of St. Joseph, Mo., had quietly sued thousands of its low-income patients over their unpaid bills.

But after an investigation by NPR and ProPublica prompted further scrutiny by Sen. Charles Grassley, the hospital overhauled its financial assistance policy late last year and forgave the debts of thousands of former patients.

Just across the train tracks from U.S. Route 321, in the town of North, S.C., nestled among mobile homes covered with red roses, sits the one-story brick campus of North Middle/High School.

Robert Gordon strides forward in the school's entryway to shake my hand. He's slim, dressed neatly in khakis, loafers and a striped polo shirt, with a pleather portfolio under one arm.

"It's been a stressful morning," he says, explaining that one middle school boy stabbed another with a pencil.

According to a report by the Vera Institute for Justice, there are more than 3,000 local jails in America, holding more than 730,000 people on any given day. Nancy Fishman, a project director at the Vera Institute, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that jails "have impacted a huge number of Americans ... many more than are impacted by state prisons."

Seattle Food Rescue founder Tim Jenkins picks up food from Stock Box on James St.
KUOW Photo/Matt Martin

Up to 40 percent of food in the U.S. ends up in landfills. Seattle has been trying to tackle the issue with laws that require composting. But that's not enough for one local cyclist.

Tim Jenkins cuts sharply across tracks in the road as he jets through an intersection before the light changes. He has a child trailer attached to the back of his bike. But instead of carrying a small human, Jenkins hopes to fill the cart with food.

Let's begin with a choice.

Say there's a check in the mail. It's meant to help you run your household. You can use it to keep the lights on, the water running and food on the table. Would you rather that check be for $9,794 or $28,639?

It's not a trick question. It's the story of America's schools in two numbers.

He's a Bangladeshi who's been knighted by the Queen of England. A former accountant who left an executive position at Shell Oil to devote himself to the world's poorest. And when it comes to eliminating poverty, he may be the most influential man you've never heard of. Meet Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and head of a nongovernmental international development organization called BRAC. Today the University of Michigan honors Abed, who is 80, with its Thomas Francis Jr.

Terrell Walker lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, D.C., with her 9-year-old and 2-year-old daughters.

Walker stopped paying her rent last September because, she says, her apartment is in horrible condition — and she is fighting her landlord's eviction threat in court.

But when tenants don't pay, landlords say they have less money to fix things up.

Every morning for weeks, Meagen Limes made the same phone call: to a court in Washington, D.C., to see if that day was the day she'd be evicted from her home.

Limes faced eviction because she couldn't pay rent on her three-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, where many of the city's poorest residents live.

It can sometimes take weeks before the marshals actually show up at your door, and Limes fully expected to be homeless any day.

Maya Swinehart weighs recovered food from the SPU campus kitchen.
KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

Food waste — we all do it. We put that bag of spinach in the back of the fridge and forget about it. We make a casserole big enough to feed an army and never eat the leftovers.

Now multiply that waste by thousands. That's what was happening at Seattle Pacific University. Nearly 100,000 pounds of food went uneaten every year. 

Maya Swinehart decided to do something about it.

Nearly one-third of households on SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, still have to visit a food pantry to keep themselves fed, according to data highlighted this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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